Yes, Virginia, bed bugs can climb up glass surfaces!

by nobugsonme on March 24, 2011 · 4 comments

in bed bugs, videos of bed bugs

Many people think that bed bugs can’t climb up glass surfaces.  Some university fact sheets suggest people place bed legs in glass jars for this reason.

For example, The University of California’s IPM bed bug fact sheet says, “you can exclude bed bugs from clean beds by … placing [the legs of the bed] inside glass jars or metal cans, which are too slippery for bed bugs to climb.”  Penn State says they have “difficulty” climbing “polished glass surfaces,” which is much more specific than the U of C’s advice.  (By the way, in contrast with the U of C recommendations, we don’t recommend “isolating the bed” in most cases, but that’s another story.)

To address this issue of whether bed bugs can climb glass, Lou Sorkin provides the following educational videos showing that bed bugs can indeed climb up glass surfaces.

Lou writes of the first video:

After feeding, bed bug released into glass enclosure. It crawled over to edge and then started to climb up. It didn’t reach the top. If it had not eaten it would be less heavy and [this] possibly could help it hold onto glass.

(View here if you don’t see a video above.)

It would be interesting to see how an unfed adult bed bug fares in this test.

Lou writes of the second video,

Just fed male bed bug had crawled along the floor of the glass enclosure and then climbs up glass wall.

When it reaches the vicinity of plastic vial opening, it climbs off glass to join others in [the plastic] vial.

Hint: it has nothing to do with its claws. In case you are wondering, adult bed bugs have vestigial wings. They are small and pad-like so the insect is not able to fly.

Also viewable here.

So now we know!  Thanks, Lou!

Louis Sorkin is an entomologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and one of the volunteer experts who helps field reader questions in our Bedbugger Forums, under the username “loubugs”.

1 Not So Snug March 25, 2011 at 1:51 am

I knew this!

Once I discovered my infestation I captured three adult bugs in a 6″ tall jar. Right off it looked like two of them were fighting, but I later realized the male was inseminating the female as several eggs were soon laid up on the glass walls of the jar at various heights and locations.

I never saw an adult climb the glass, but the eggs were the surprising proof of that capability. I wonder why laying the eggs scattered around up on the glass was reproductively necessary? Perhaps there was a risk of the male canabalizing them. Or perhaps there was an instinctive sense of the escape route as occasionally I opened the jar. When the eggs hatched, I never saw the nymphs crawl up the glass either.

2 Lou Sorkin March 25, 2011 at 7:49 am

Bed bugs don’t cannibalize eggs because blood is what they consume. The female was just crawling and had to deposit eggs as she crawled about and there were no harborage areas — it was all open space.

3 Doug Summers MS March 31, 2011 at 8:26 pm


Great video… but I have been having nightmares ever since I clicked on the play button.

Watching a bed bug crawl out of a glass vial is a frightening experience for a K9 handler that must maintain live bed bugs for training purposes.

I know that they can climb many smooth looking surfaces… I learned early in my K9 handling career that bed bugs can climb out of a plastic Ziplock storage container, but found that they are unable to scale the smooth interior of a clean yogurt container.

Does anyone have any ideas on …How someone could measure the texture of a surface to evaluate whether a bed bug could scale it without actuallyusing a live bed bug for the testing?

I believe that some smooth polished plastic, metal and glass surfaces are not climbable, but cast, frosted, porous or dirty surfaces do not seem to pose much of a challenge.

4 Sherry Casper May 11, 2011 at 4:52 pm

FYI: I began collecting bedbugs a few months ago when I found them crawling on my bed & bedding. I believe they came up from the condo below me, entering through the wall & floor joints. I collected them in a clean clear plastic baby food container with snap-on lid. Even the little or hungry ones can’t climb the sides. The first batch I microwaved: eggs, nymphs & all succumbed. I also discovered that soapy water is an effective agent for killing them when seen or when in cracks & crevasses. The water doesn’t have to be hot either. I spread plastic sheeting on the floor around my bed (a water bed frame in its former life), sprayed, sometimes poured soapy water (I used regular Dawn dish washing detergent) in, on & around knotholes, cracks & joints of the wooden bed frame. It’s an agent I used to dip my cat for fleas and to get ride of ant trails inside & outside.

I have seen them mating, seen the eggs & nymphs in the plastic container. They somehow can get blood from each other or a newly introduced engorged bug as the nymphs have gone on to another stage. They appear to be cannibalizing dead ones.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: